- Professor Dunn,
Thank you for your willingness to share your provocative paper with
us and for the opportunity to explore its content more deeply through
My questions center on your use of the term 'impact' and its
significance within the framework of your thesis.
You begin (1.4) with a partial definition of 'impact' as the effect
of Jesus' teaching and deeds on the disciples, an effect which leads
to the initiation of the (oral) tradition. Later (3.6) you point out
that this 'impact' was such that "...it was recalled, its key
emphases crystallized in the overall theme and/or in particular words
and phrases..." Presumably those words and phrases would be
utterances of Jesus himself, as you imply above. It would seem likely
that the first hearers would wish to rehearse and recall his words
which had made such an 'impact' on them. Yet you go on to remark,
"There was no concern to recall all the precise words of Jesus..."
Later still (4.1), however, you state, "...the impacting word or
event became the tradition of that word or event." Whose word could
this have been other than Jesus'? Still in 4.1, you state, "The
character of the tradition as shared memory means that in many
instances we do not know precisely what it was that Jesus did or
said. What we have in the Jesus tradition is the consistent and
coherent features of the shared impact made by his deeds and words,
not the objective deeds and words of Jesus as such (my italics)." I
have a difficult time conceptualizing a tradition that contains
'impacts' but not words of the one who makes the 'impact' and why the
nature of the tradition as shared memory reduces the possibility of
knowing what Jesus said or did.
The apparent conflict between 'impact' and 'word' becomes even more
acute in your discussion of the shared mission of the disciples
(4.1). You state that you find it hard to avoid the inference that
"their preaching would have...included teaching which Jesus had given
them." Yet that teaching, you go on to surmise, was "not in a
verbatim mode, but in a mode which would convey the
disciple-effecting impact which they themselves had experienced." I
am at a loss to understand what that mode might be if it is not to
include something like Jesus' actual words.
Towards the end of your paper (4.3) you seem to back off somewhat
from the implications of a wordless 'impact' by pointing to 'the
likelihood that the stabilities of the tradition were sufficiently
maintained and the variabilities of the retellings subject to
sufficient control for the substance of the tradition, and often
actual words of Jesus which made the first tradition-forming impact,
to continue as integral parts of the living tradition...(my italics)"
Indeed, you go farther in your Summary: "...the memories [of the
discipleship and embryonic communities] consisted in stories and
teachings whose own identity was focused in particular words and
phrases--usually those said by Jesus himself."
I wonder if you would be so kind as to elucidate a bit more fully
your concept of 'impact' and clarify what at first glance might be
perceived as a certain opaqueness.
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